Entering the Show
This information is here to educate new breeders about entering shows, producing show stock, learning the judging process, and show strategies. Showing rabbits is a very fun and rewarding hobby that people of all ages can enjoy.
A rabbit show is a place where you can exhibit your purebred rabbits against others of it's breed in order for it to be evaluated by a judge to see how well it matches up to the breed standard.
One of the main objectives when heading to a show, is to attend it with a full intention to learn and have a fun time. You'll have the opportunity to meet other breeders, learn about your breed as well as others, get the first-hand experience with new techniques, further establish your hobby with new ideas and supplies, sell or purchase new stock, and educated yourself and others with a variety of improved knowledge. You'll leave a show having the satisfaction that you are apart of the growing movement to produce healthy and genetically superior animals. Winning awards and trophies are just a bonus to such an experience.
What is the entire point of showing rabbits?
By showing your rabbits, you are able to evaluate and understand the weaknesses and flaws your rabbits need improvement on. Judges evaluate the physical structure and proportions of your rabbits -pointing out which areas are correct or incorrect. Rabbits with correct structure will be healthier and be able to move to the fullest of their abilities. Animals with incorrect structure are prone to health problems, restricted movements, and discomfort. Without showing, a breeder has no base from which to grow from.
If you are interested in showing your rabbits, you may contact the American Rabbit Breeders Association by phone or view their website for up and coming shows in your area. You may also look up show dates in rabbit magazines, through your state rabbit club newsletter, your ARBA district website, or through local 4-H leaders if you are seeking to show through 4-H.
Once you've located a local show date, you'll need to contact the show secretary (whose contact information should be available from the same source you learned about the show from) and request a show catalog or flyer. You will be sent the catalog either by mail or e-mail. A show catalog will inform you where to send your entries if it is a pre-entry show or the time of closure for a day of entry show. The catalog will also give you information about the judges that will be at the show, which breeds will be sanctioned, as well as the show location. After about a year of showing, you will be put on a mailing list in which you will automatically receive catalogs from various state and local rabbit clubs for upcomming shows.
Once you have a show catalog, inform the show secretary which rabbits you want to bring to the show. Sometimes the secretary will send show entry forms to you along with the catalog. You can also print off your own show entry forms from rabbit club websites.
The show entry form and entry fees (usually ranging from $1-$4 per rabbit you enter) are turned in before the show begins (usually the morning of the show, sometimes earlier by mail or e-mail if it's a pre-entry show) to the show secretary.
Sometimes shows will have sanctioned breed judging-meaning another club or organization will be holding a separate judging at the same show for a certain breed. For example, you may have Show A, Show B, and Show C-all for mini rex. You can enter your rabbits in all of these shows if you like (this offers you the chance to get multiple judge opinions and better chances at winning ribbons) for additional entry fees.
After the show, the show secretary uses all exhibitors' show entry forms and remark cards to compile results and reports from the rabbit show. Show results for each sanctioned breed are sent (by the show secretary) to all the breed clubs and state rabbit breeders association, and if you are listed as a paid member, your points are put towards any sweepstakes that club is tracking.
The show secretary also makes your own personal show report which will list all of your rabbits, where they placed in their classes, any specials earned (such as best of breed, best of variety, etc) and points each rabbit earned along with your total points awarded to you at each show.
If you are just starting to show your rabbits, it is very important to think about how you want to be listed as an exhibitor such as using your full name or the name of your rabbitry. Once you have chosen an exhibitor name, you must never alter or change it, because if you do, then you will not receive any points for your original name.
Filling Out Show Entry Forms
At ARBA Rabbit shows you may enter as many rabbits as you want. You can also enter several different rabbits in the same class if you want. You can list all of your rabbits on one rabbit show entry form - you do not need separate entry forms for each breed or class. If all your rabbit entries do not fit onto one Show Entry form, use as many additional sheets as you need, and staple them together.
When filling out the forms, you will need to put your rabbits into classes, along with their sex and breed. Classes determine a rabbit's age group. There is the 4-Class (rabbit breeds less than 9lbs at an adult age which is separated into Senior Does, Senior Bucks, Junior Does, and Junior Bucks. Rabbits in 4-Class that are less than 6 months of age are considered Juniors. Rabbits over 6 months of age are considered Seniors). Then there is 6-Class (rabbit breeds over 9lbs at an adult age which is separated into Senior Does, Senior Buck, Intermediate Does, Intermediate Bucks, Junior Does, and Junior Bucks. Rabbits in 6-Class that are under 6 months of age are considered Juniors, rabbits under 8 months of age are consider Intermediates, and rabbits over 8 months of age are considered Seniors). So, on the entry form, for the class section, you will write whether your rabbit is a Senior, Intermediate (only if it qualifies for the 6-Class) or Junior.
If you have to scratch any rabbits off of the entry form after you arrive at a show, you may have to pay an additional fee to do so. Some shows will allow you to swap rabbits out instead of scratch them off the list if they are in the same class.
Which Rabbits Can Go to Shows?
First of all, the age of your rabbits should be at least 6 months to be shown. Any sooner than this, and it's hard to tell what their overall condition and looks will eventually be as they mature. For local shows, you do not have to have a pedigree or registration to show your rabbits (rabbits without pedigrees are classified as "Grade" rabbits as opposed to a purebred rabbit). However, if you plan on breeding your rabbits, you must have pedigrees. Do not bring rabbits that are molting are have obvious DQs to a show. And do not plan on "Faking" their DQs either. "Faking" is a term used when a breeder deliberately plucks stray white hairs or paints toe nails on their rabbits so they don't get disqualified. However, the judges have keen eyes and will pick up on these kinds of things. Also, don't bring pregnant or nursing does. You can bring a doe no later than 2 weeks after conception, but it's not advised as bringing her to a show exposes her to pathogens which can harm her unborn litter.
NEVER bring rabbits that are sick or may be suspected of being sick. It doesn't matter if that rabbit was the most valuable in your herd, do not bring it if you see it sniffling the day before you take off to competition. It is dangerous and disrespectful to bring a sick rabbit to a show. One single sick animal on the show table could literally cause every other rabbit in the showroom to be ill and bring that illness into a rabbitry.
All rabbits must have a permanent legible tattoo in their left ear, otherwise, you will not be premitted to show them.
Types of Shows
Sometimes there will be specialty shows held within a rabbit show - this is a small specialized show for only one breed or a group of breeds sponsored by another rabbit club. This will be a mini-show put on during the show day just for Dutch rabbits. They will usually have their own show tables away from the main show tables, and they will also have their own judge and secretary, usually separate from the main show. Any specialty shows will be advertised in the show catalog ahead of time so you can plan to enter if you choose. You will need a separate show entry form, remark cards, and entry fees just for this specialty show and you will have to find the specialty show secretary to turn in your entry forms. Attending a specialty show offers you the opportunity to show your rabbit twice in one day and gain more points.
Youth and Open Shows:
If you are age 19 yrs old or over, you don't have a choice - you must show in OPEN against other adults. If you are age 18 yrs of age or under, you are a YOUTH. Youth can show in either OPEN or YOUTH classes - even at the same show, but you cannot show the same rabbit in both open and youth classes at the same show. Pick one exhibitor age class for each rabbit you show. If you are going to show rabbits in both open and youth at the same show, you need to make separate show entry forms and remark cards for your open rabbits and separate show entry forms and remark cards for your youth rabbits. Be sure to mark OPEN on your open rabbit entry forms and remark cards, and YOUTH on your youth entry forms and remark cards.
In 4-H clubs, youth have the opportunity to get involved in showmanship classes, breed ID, and royalty contests.
A coop show is a little different from your average local basket show (when you bring and keep your rabbits in transport cages). Coop shows are usually reserved for large shows such as ARBA nationals and fairs. These types of shows will usually last a few days.
Cages will be provided for your rabbits.
Don't bring more rabbits than what you had registered for the show. The reason being, the show secretary will only have the exact amount of cages set up as the number of rabbits registered to be shown. So don't show up with an entire litter of rabbits that you wanted to sell at the show. Reserve that for the basket shows.
Since these shows last a few days, you'll need to do a few extra things that you wouldn't usually do for a standard basket show. For one, you'll need to make arrangements for a nearby hotel and you'll need to bring extra personal supplies for yourself and extra feed/water/bedding for your rabbits because as mentioned, these show will last 2-3 days. Don't bring more than what is absolutely necessary. The reason being, there will not be enough space at a coop show for you to set up your own station. Sometimes, the space is so little, you will not be allowed to set up a grooming table, so think small. You will be restricted to a very small space in an aisle next to the cages you are assigned.
Each one of your rabbits will be assigned a cage and the cage number will be marked in your rabbit's ear with a marker. When it's time for showing, people who are called "Runners" will be handling your rabbits to and from the judging tables and cages, unlike a basket show where you are responsible for doing that. This is done to prevent confusing and adhere to the times of a show. When you first arrive at a coop show, you'll get your rabbit set up in their cages. Make sure you've brought your own food/water/bedding, and cups/water bottles for your rabbits as these will usually not be provided, and if they are provided, they will be of questionable quality.
Coop shows have a lot of extras compared to basket shows. There on nightly banquets, contests, educational classes, and special events such as introductions of new color varieties. Coop shows can be quite chaotic as there can be literally thousands of rabbits and breeders, but they are well worth it.
Preparing and Participating
When going to a show, you are expected to provide your own carriers for your rabbits. Some shows provide cages for the rabbits to be housed in while waiting their turn to be up on the judging table. These are called Coop Shows. However, most local shows do not provide this (these are called "Basket" shows), so when bringing your rabbits, make sure you provide essentials to keep them comfortable during the day.
What You Need to Bring to A Basket Show:
Hay and treats to keep your rabbits content. You can also bring pellets if your rabbits normally eat their pellets throughout the day.
Water. Lots and lots of water for both your rabbits and yourself.
Feed crocks and water bottles.
Portable grooming table.
Rabbit First Aid Kit
Folding chairs and entertainment supplies (such as a book) if you want some downtime while waiting between classes being called.
The Standard of Perfection in case you need to refer to it.
Copy of your entry form
Your ARBA card
Directions to the Show
Cash for any extra entry fees, raffle tickets, food, purchasing rabbits, etc.
Cooler of food for yourself in you're not planning on buying any
Book of copies of pedigrees for the rabbits you are bringing
Copies of your Sales Policies/Bill of Sale if you are planning on selling rabbits
Carriers. Bring empty carriers if you planning on buying rabbits
Carrier ID tags
Bring the right rabbits! Check ear numbers and double check which ones you want for showing, selling, donating to the raffle, or ones that are presold that will be obtained at the show.
Anything you want to donate to the raffle-such as rabbitry supplies, rabbit craft projects, rabbit gifts, etc. Raffle donations are optional but appreciated.
An apron (some breeders customize theirs with their rabbitry logo) to prevent you from being covered in rabbit fur.
Your rabbitry business cards.
When traveling with your rabbits, always keep them in a cool ventilated area, never leave them sitting in the car in the sun. Some rabbits stress easily when going to shows, especially for the first time, so try to make them as comfortable as possible. Some breeders give supplements to their rabbits to ease stress and boost the immune system before a show, others believe that doing this will alter the rabbit's schedule of feeding, and hence cause stress in its self.
Once you arrive at the show, locate the show secretary before you do anything and check in. Checking in consists of paying entry fees if you didn't mail those in with your entry, and an overall check that all of your information is correct so that all the paperwork can be given to the judges free of errors.
After you do this, locate the judging tables and see which tables are going to be judging your breed and note the times. They are usually posted on the table with these lists. Once locating your table, unload your rabbits from your car and set up your station near the tables you have located.
Remember to respect other's station space and also leave a large area between you and the tables as it's considered rude to be set up too close as it constricts the goings on around the table. If you are attending a "Coop" show, cages will be provided for you. Runners will usually handle your rabbits during the judging process at coop shows. After you are all set up and you know the times that you will be showing (you may be waiting a few hours or even a few minutes, depending on the schedule), you can start taking your rabbits out of their cages and giving them last minute grooming prep-plucking stray hairs, removing urine stains, clipping nails, etc.
This is also a good time to see if any of your rabbits are stressed. Make sure they are all comfortable and have at least a fresh supply of water. If they do seem a bit stressed, but not in any form close to shock, simply put a towel on top of their cage to give them a little secluded comfort and be aware of their changing condition.
After you are done prepping your rabbits and you still have some time before your breed is called up, you can go about the show building, conversing with other breeders-sharing tips, learning about different breeds, and buying/selling rabbits. You will find that rabbit breeders are very friendly and open people and are more than happy to share their knowledge and tips with others. Or, if you're not too social, you can simply hang out at your station and read a book or play with your rabbits. There are also vendors at shows, that sell things like premium feeds, rabbitry supplies, cages, or other unique rabbit items. Perhaps the most fun thing about a rabbit show is the raffle. Here you can bid and donate anything that is rabbit related including culled rabbits you just want to get rid of, cages, supplies, feed, decorations, books, crafts, clothing, baked goods, and basically anything consisting of rabbit paraphernalia. All the donations go to the cost of the show and other rabbit organizations and rescues. The raffle is usually called towards the end of the show near the time that Best of Show takes place.
Talking to all the breeders, vendors, and visiting the raffle and food booths can easily take up your entire day as there is always so much going on, but be aware when you are called to your tables.
Show etiquette is very important, especially at the judging table. Do not get in another breeder's way and give everyone their space once you put your rabbit in the holding cage. The holding cage will have your rabbit's remark card on top of it so you know where to put it. Do not waste time when you hear your class is called, if you are late, this will irritate the judges and they will have to embarrass you by yelling out your name across the room to get your rabbit into its holding cage. This same principle applies when taking your rabbit out of the holding cage.
If you need to scratch your rabbit (disqualify it from the table for whatever reason) try to do so before the judging is to take place so as not to waste the judges time.
When your rabbit is on the table, don't jump in front of people to see what's going on. Don't be rude, proclaiming that the judge is looking at "your rabbit" or the "first place winner" and don't speak negatively about other breeders or their rabbits. Try not to talk at all, but to observe. Judges are more than happy to answer questions, give remarks on why they choose something over another, or what disqualified or otherwise impress them about a rabbit-but only after they are done judging. Do not interrupt them while they are working. Do not argue with them, or make rude comments about how they made the decisions. They are there because it is their hobby, they do not have to judge your rabbit, so respect that.
Once all of the rabbits that have been called to the table are sitting in their places, the judges will begin the process of evaluation. The first thing they will do is look for any rabbits with disqualifications, which will then be removed from the assortment of other rabbits. The judges will do a quick look over each rabbit's teeth, eyes, gender, ears, and nails. They may begin to sort the rabbits according to their own order. The judge will then again go over the rabbits that are still in the class, this time more extensively. They may make a few comments here or there about each rabbit, so listen closely. Each comment will be written down on a comment card by a writer-someone (usually a 4-H youth or judge in training) who marks all the pros and cons stated from the judge about a particular rabbit. You will get your remark card at the end of the class so you can see exactly what the judge thought about your rabbit. After the judge has carefully and thoroughly evaluated each rabbit and gradually removed others from the class, they will keep the remaining two on the table, evaluate them against each other for the third time and then state which places each of the rabbits take. The remark card will also state if your rabbit took any places in its class.
Example of a Remark Card
Rabbits will first be judged in small groups, distinguished by their class-color, sex, and age. Bucks will be evaluated first in each class. Each one of these groups will have a winner and the equivalent of a second place winner. For example; Best of Variety and Best Opposite Sex of Variety. The BOV and BOSV from each color group will then be reserved to compete for the Best of Breed.
Terms the Judges Use:
Bloom: refers to the vitality and finish of a coat in good condition.
Catchy in the hips: means that the hip bones stick up or close to the qual to the spine. The rabbit is flat in the hindquarters and if you cup your hand around the top of the rabbit and move your hand back towards the tail, your hand will “catch” on the hip bones.
Chuffy: this is an actual livestock term and means beefy or fleshy around the shoulders and neck
Flange: if you fold an ear on a rabbit in half, the rabbit has a flange if the back of the ear sticks out further than the front of the ear. It distracts from the general appearance of the rabbit.
Fluffy: means a baby coat that has a lot of undercoat and not a lot of guard hair.
Hollow in the hindquarters: means the same as “shovel butt”, indents in the hindquarters rather than rounding out.
Hourglasses: just as an hourglass is concaved in the middle, so may a rabbit, narrower in the middle than it is in the shoulders or hindquarters.
Lacks elevation: meaning the rabbit needs more depth, it is flat over the top.
Late start: means that the top line starts after where the standard calls for it to start. Some standards call for it at the back of the shoulder, some call for it to start at the nap or base of the neck, or base of the ears.
Light: in the hindquarters meaning not enough fullness close to the table in the hindquarters. Also means undercut.
Long in the barrel: means long in the shoulder and rib. Often these rabbits have flat shoulders and a late start.
Loose coat: fur not set tightly in the skin. Same as slipping coat.
Marbling: is a mottling of the eye color.
Mealy: off colored stray hairs in the colored pattern, giving the appearance of being powdered or sprinkled.
Open coat: coat lacking the ability to return to its natural position when stroked forward.
Pinched in the muzzle: not enough fullness in the muzzle, pointed.
Shallow: meaning low, needs more depth, mostly used as a shoulder comment.
Shovel butt: means at the hindquarters, it indents between the pins bones, line the back of the shovel
Slipped crown: is the placement of the crown either too far back or too far forward causing the ears to be misplaced.
Slipping coat: the condition of the fur is just starting to “break” and is going into molt. Small amounts of fur are starting to fall out.
Snippy: referring to the head, long, pointed, narrow head.
Before you remove your rabbits from the table, whether they have been disqualified or they have won a place and the judging is over for their class, make sure you grab the right rabbit. As stated above, judges will move the rabbits around from stall to stall while evaluating them, so you're rabbit most likely is not where you had originally left it. The writer should place the remark card on top of your rabbit's current stall when it is ready to be removed. Check the remark card and the rabbit's ear number for clarification. Often times, breeders accidentally take the wrong rabbit off the table.
If your rabbit does win in its class and breed group, then you can move on to best in show (where each best of breed competes with all of the other best of breed rabbits that were shown that day) which takes place at the very end of the day. Even if you don't make it, it's still fun to stay behind and see who does win. If you even manage to get a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place, you can get your ribbons and trophies right away at the ribbons table.
When you leave the showroom be sure to clean up after yourself and don't leave anything behind.
All rabbits you bring home from a show should be quarantined for at least 2 weeks in case they have brought back any diseases.
Within about 2-4 weeks, you will receive a show report in the mail, simply stating which rabbits you brought, places they took, awards or disqualifications, and points earned to you if you are licensed with the ARBA.